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Backpacker Magazine – May 2004

Backpacking Basics

Our 5-step guide to planning, gear, food, fitness, and essential skills

by: Michelle Hamilton, BACKPACKER Assistant Editor

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>>>Rent a tent Many outfitters rent shelter, packs, and other gear. It cuts initial costs and lets you experiment before buying.
>>>Pamper your feet Prevent blisters and other foot woes by getting lightweight boots that are slightly larger than your street shoes and matching them with wool hiking socks.
>>>Pare your threads Pack clothes for a 24-hour period, on trail and in camp, and wear the same stuff all weekend. Throw in extra socks to keep your feet happy.
>>>Cook like a pro Get a lightweight canister stove and one or two standard fuel canisters for a long weekend.
>>>Sleep like a baby Bed down on a sleeping pad that's 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches thick, and with dimensions that don't leave your limbs dangling off the sides. Likewise your bag should match your frame--try it in the store--and should be rated at least 10°F warmer than the temperatures you expect.
>>>Go a little luxe It's not a monastery out there. Sneak a luxury item into your pack: a deck of cards, a Lexan bottle of vino, a good book, or camera gear.

3. Food
Fine dining is simply a matter of smart menu planning: Use quick-cooking ingredients from your pantry and do prep work at home.

>>> Write out a menu for the whole trip, and don't put off shopping until the last moment. Here's a sample menu for two people on a 3-day trip.

2 breakfasts: 4 packs of instant oatmeal; cold cereal with powdered milk
3 lunches: turkey sandwiches; PB and J; salami and cheese on a bagel
2 dinners: angel hair pasta with pesto sauce and sliced red peppers; burritos made from dehydrated beans, tortillas, cheese, and salsa
Snacks: Trail mix, dried fruit, energy bars, chocolate, and cookies

>>> At home, repackage food and spices, leaving behind bulky, heavy containers.

>>> Experiment with freeze-dried. Dehydrated food is fast, easy, and better than you think. Our favorites: Enertia Trail Foods (http://trailfoods.com/) and Mary Janes Farm (www.maryjanesfarm.org).

>>> Leave beer behind, but don't forsake other liquid vices. Bring your favorite dark roast and a lightweight filter for breakfast, plus an after-dinner something to toast your successful adventure.

[Resource] More Backcountry Cooking, by Dorcas S. Miller ($17)

4. Fitness
If you can hike for a few hours, you can backpack for a weekend. But a little training will make the second day feel as good as the first.

>>> Hike yourself into shape: The best way to train for any sport is to do it. Carry a full pack on your routine dayhikes--it's also a great way to test your gear.
>>> Master the mountains: There's a reason hikers flock to alpine country. It's beautiful up there. Strengthen your hill-climbing muscles (quads, hamstrings, and calves) with regular workouts on a stairclimber.

[Resource] "Total Fitness" (pages 65-72)

5. Skills
Don't get caught with your pants down and no shovel. Learn how to dig a cathole and other essential skills, like pitching your tent and lighting your stove.

>>>Read the directions Ignore the neighbors and give your gear a test run in the backyard: Pitch your tent, light your stove, use your water filter.
>>>Lose the bathroom anxiety Never gone anywhere without modern plumbing? Don't fret. Pooping in the outdoors is as natural as walking, and many backcountry campsites have outhouses.
>>>Learn good manners Think of camping like being a guest in someone else's house: Don't mess it up. Camp on bare ground or rock, don't do dishes in the creek, and leave plants and animals alone. For more tips, go to www.lnt.org.
>>>Find yourself You'll never get lost if you stay attuned to your surroundings from the beginning. Locate yourself on a map, then stay oriented as you hike.

[Resource] Camping & Wilderness Survival, by Paul Tawrell ($25)


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